Volunteering in a charity shop can be hugely rewarding, as fashion blogger Deborah Simpson Boston has found.
The 44-year-old began volunteering at the British Red Cross shop in East Street, Shoreham, in 2015 as a way of managing her stress and anxiety.
The role also enabled her to put her extensive fashion PR experience to good use and she is now manager of the shop.
Deborah is on the lookout for more volunteers and hopes her story will inspire others to get involved.
She said: “To begin with, volunteering gave me something to get up for in the mornings. Summer 2015 had been a stressful time for me, juggling my demanding work as a fashion PR, running a business with my husband and dealing with unsuccessful IVF treatment. My anxiety and stress became an overwhelming wave of depression.
“I decided to give up work to focus on my fashion blog, which I loved, but I also began to feel lonely and crave human interaction. That led me to volunteer at the Red Cross shop, where I could put my love of fashion to good use, recognising the good brands and sorting, pricing and displaying the items accordingly.
“During this time, volunteers turned into friends and I found myself working in a way I’d not worked before, working not just as a shop volunteer but listening to others concerns and problems. I felt genuinely supported and loved, something that you don’t always feel in fashion.
“Two years later, I now work for the British Red Cross and help to manage the team at Shoreham.”
Deborah has found people volunteer for many different reasons. For some, it is a link between not working for a while and paid work, for others, it is for companionship or to work through a dark time in their lives.
She added: “For many, it’s a happy, safe place to grab a coffee, have a chat and sort some stuff both physically and mentally. Lots of people find they make life-long friends and get satisfaction out of doing something useful at the heart of their local community.”
New recruits are asked to give up a little of their free time in exchange for a fun, sociable way to make a difference to people in crisis.
Volunteers might devote several afternoons a week to the shop, or just a few hours each Saturday. The reward is the opportunity to learn new skills and socialise with others in the area while contributing to raising money for Red Cross services in the community.
The charity is known for its work overseas but it supports thousands of people in the UK each year, too. It helps people regain independence after a health crisis, is the biggest provider of support to refugees and asylum seekers, and teaches life-saving first aid.
In Sussex, the Red Cross supported more than 3,000 people last year through its volunteer-led social care services alone. The carers’ service offers practical and emotional support to carers and their loved ones, while the assisted discharge service helps people to return home after a stay at Royal Sussex County Hospital.
Deborah said: “We’d love to hear from anyone who might be interested in volunteering at our shop.
“You might be a rummager with a flair for finding hidden treasures, or perhaps you enjoy a chinwag and meeting new people. You don’t need lots of time or special skills to volunteer, just a bit of kindness.”
The Shoreham shop receives up to 50 bags of donations each week and raised more than £120,000 from sales last year.
To find out about volunteering, telephone Deborah on 01273 455311 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Visit the shop online at www.redcross.org.uk or in person.
See Deboarah’s fashion blog at www.diaryofanhonestwoman.com